There are 389 single-family homes listed for sale in the cities of Bismarck and Mandan. The majority of which have at least three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
But a group of local stakeholders are wondering if there is an opportunity in the market for something different.
Nationwide, 62 percent of the housing market is made up of single-family homes, Jim Kumon of the Incremental Development Alliance told a group of local developers, officials and investors Monday. Most places, single-family housing makes up closer to 80 percent of the market. Meanwhile, it is predicted that, by 2030, 83 percent of households will have no children.
Kumon said there is a mismatch in the nation’s building stock to the people looking for places to live. He’s not sure when it will hit Bismarck-Mandan but he’s pretty sure it will at some point.
“I just can’t find enough of the kind of housing I need the way I need it,” he said is the dilemma of the changing demographic.
People may still be buying single-family homes.
“The question is are there opportunities in the marketplace for something that’s not a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house that will better fit the coming demographic shifts across the country,” Kumon said.
That’s why Kumon and the alliance are pushing what they call a “resurgence of small scale urban neighborhoods,” utilizing building methods that have been largely overlooked the past 20 to 25 years, including four-plex rental homes that can be found in the neighborhoods surrounding Bismarck’s downtown.
That’s the kind of neighborhood David Witham, a Bismarck-based urban design consultant, wants to live. And he knows others looking for that lifestyle as well, where they can walk to work or the coffee shop or the gym.
“I think there’s a big demand here not being met,” Witham said.
That’s why he and the other sponsors of Monday’s event — the Downtowners, Ubl Design Group, Paramount Builders, Axtman and Associates, Bartlett & West, Daniel Companies, Plainview Design Co. and the Lewis & Clark Development Group — asked Kumon to share his insights.
Witham said, right now, they’re not sure exactly how big demand is, which is why there’s interest in the incremental development approach.
Incremental development is done by small neighborhood developers a few units at a time to test the market and see whether or not they can get renters to pay at a level that will support the building.
Kumon said most people may think there is no one willing to spend $1,000 to rent an apartment downtown when they can stay in a 100-unit complex for $750.
“But that apartment might be in the right place at the right time in proximity to the right resources and then they will pay $1,000 per month,” Kumon said. “A hundred of them, a thousand of them, no. But a couple. The couple is what you need to start.”
Finding those four renters at a time is what reduces risk, and with infill type projects there is public cost savings because it does not require an infrastructure buildout.
“Bankers would like to see more (of these),” Kumon said. “All they see are the big projects.”
And those big projects are not meeting all of the needs in the community.
Kumon said, for most cities, there is only so far they can expand before running into barriers, either running out of land or it becomes too costly, which is why he says it’s important to use the land and buildings effectively. And encouraging these small neighborhood developers often involves eliminating barriers in the building codes that have developed over time.
Kate Herzog of the Downtowners said the group would like to bring Kumon back to Bismarck to help identify zoning barriers and Witham said he is hopeful Monday’s presentation can trigger a couple pilot projects in the community to gauge demand for this type of development.